Rajasthan Assembly Election: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech in Jaipur on Monday hinted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may go to the crucial Rajasthan Assembly Election without the chief minister's face. While addressing the party's 'Parivartan Sankalp Yatra' rally in the pink city, PM Modi indicated that the BJP's symbol 'Lotus' will be the face of the party in coming polls in the state. Highlighting the achievements of his government, PM Modi said, "I do what I say. Therefore, my guarantee has substance. This is the track record of the last nine years."
The PM said that his government implemented 'one rank, one pension' for ex-servicemen and addressed the issue of instant triple talaq. He pressed Modi means a guarantee of fulfillment of promises and our identity and pride are just Lotus (party symbol). The party workers should make efforts to ensure that lotus flowers bloom at every booth, he added.
On the arrival of PM Modi in Jaipur, supporters of two-time Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia were expecting the announcement of her name as the face of the party for the upcoming election, but that didn't happen. Instead of clearing the picture on the name of the party face, the PM hinted that the BJP may go to polls by making Modi and the party symbol (Lotus) as party face deepening the ongoing suspense over the next candidate for the CM post.
In the past, the BJP had adopted this strategy wherever it found that picking a name before the election may lead to a divide in the party. The saffron party adopts this strategy when it senses that the state unit under the leadership of local leaders is not strong enough to take on the rival and the party projects PM Modi as the face.
Meanwhile, the silence of the BJP high command on the name of the CM candidate is also a testimony to the fact that all is not well in the party unit in Rajasthan. On record, Rajasthan BJP leaders deny any differences among the top leaders in the state but off the record the internal rivalry can be seen on the ground.
A number of media reports suggested that the party is divided into two factions - the Raje-led group and Union Minister and Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's bloc. The former Chief Minister was missing from the BJP's Parivartan Yatra on her home turf - Jhalawar and Kota in the last two days. Raje's statement ahead of PM Modi's visit that she is not going to leave Rajasthan and her reference to Lord Krishna saved Draupadi was seen as her desperate claim in the party.
"In Mahabharata, when the Kauravas insulted Draupadi, she sought help from Lord Krishna. People mocked her thinking that Lord Krishna would not come to rescue her, but he did," she said while praising PM Modi for bringing the Women’s Reservation Bill at a BJP event in Jaipur. It is speculated that she referred PM Modi to Lord Krishna.
Why is the BJP state unit allegedly upset with Raje?
The Raje saga has a link to the Congress infighting in Rajasthan. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot once said that Raje helped him when his party rival Sachin Pilot revolted against his government. Also, Pilot on several occasions accused Gehlot of not taking action against the officials allegedly involved in corruption during the Raje government. In fact, Pilot staged a one-day silent protest against his own government demanding action in corruption cases of the Raje regime. Perhaps Gehlot's alleged soft stand on Raje became a bone of contention in the Rajasthan BJP.
Raje's claim on CM candidate post
Despite all the controversies around her and alleged corruption charges against her government, Raje's claim cannot be underrated in the BJP. She has a legacy of electoral wins against Congress and Gehlot which makes her a frontrunner for the post of CM. Under her leadership, the BJP defeated the Gehlot-led Congress in 2003 and 2013. She holds a direct influence in all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In past elections, she successfully overcame the caste equation in the state. Raje knows well how to play the caste card to gain electoral success. She used to call herself daughter-in-law of Jats, daughter of Rajputs and 'samdhan' of Gujjars.
However, sensing the infightings in the party, a few months ago the BJP elevated one of her alleged rivals Rajendra Rathore by making him the LoP in the Rajasthan Assembly. Rathore belongs to the Rajput community. The development had upset the Raje faction and the decision was seen as a caste-equation balancing move.
Who is in the CM candidate race?
As the BJP hinted it may ride on the popularity wave of PM Narendra Modi in the Assembly election in Rajasthan, the saffron party may think beyond Raje. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, state unit chief Chandra Prakash Joshi, Rajendra Rathore and former Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore are some names that may supersede her. However, under no circumstances, the BJP will afford to upset Raje by sidelining her that's too in the election season.